March 2012

Consensus reached on guidelines for land tenure and access to fisheries and forests
FAO media release, 13 March 2012

ROME, ITALY: The final round of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of National Food Security was held from 5-9 March 2012, at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, ending with a successful outcome. About 96 member countries, along with civil society organizations, UN agencies and other international organizations, farmers associations, and private sector representatives took part in three rounds of negotiations led by an Open Ended Working Group of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), under the auspices of FAO. The guidelines will now be considered for final approval by the CFS at a special session in Rome in mid-May. Upon adoption, the focus will shift to implementation.

The guidelines cover a wide range of issues, including promoting equal rights for women in securing title to land, creating transparent record-keeping systems that are accessible to the rural poor, and recognizing and protecting informal, traditional rights to land, forests and fisheries. Once officially approved by CFS, they will serve as an authoritative reference for national authorities when passing laws and setting policy related to access- and ownership rights for land, fisheries, and forest resources. The guidelines are also intended to give investors and developers clear indications on best practices and to provide civil society land rights groups with benchmarks they can use in their work on behalf of rural communities.

Section 9 of the guidelines is devoted to indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems. Among other issues, the guidelines highlight that land, fisheries and forests have social, cultural, spiritual, economic, environmental and political value to indigenous peoples and other communities; and that indigenous peoples exercising self-governance should provide equitable, secure and sustainable rights to those resources, and promote effective participation of all members in decisions regarding their tenure systems. States should ensure that all actions are consistent with their existing obligations under national and international law, and with due regard to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments; provide appropriate recognition and protection of the legitimate customary tenure rights, including to the ancestral lands; consider adapting their policy, legal and organizational frameworks to recognize customary tenure systems; draft tenure policies and laws taking into account the social, cultural, spiritual, economic and environmental values of land, fisheries and forests held under customary tenure systems and with the full and effective participation of all members of affected communities; and respect and promote customary approaches to resolving tenure conflicts. Read the release … Visit the CFS webpage on land tenure … Download the guidelines [pdf] …

Rio+20: “No global goals without accountability” – an open appeal from over 20 UN experts
OHCHR release, 19 March 2012

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: A group of 22 independent UN human rights experts, including Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya, urged states to include universally agreed international human rights norms and standards, together with strong accountability mechanisms, into the goals that will emerge from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), to be held in June 2012.

The experts share three proposals for a more ambitious UNCSD. They suggest that the Rio+20 outcome document should integrate specific references to all human rights, complementing the two existing references to the right to food and the right to safe and clean drinking water. They support the proposal to establish a Sustainable Development Council to succeed the Commission for Sustainable Development and to monitor progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed by 2015. They believe however that in the context of the proposed SDGs, States should define the indicators and measures to evaluate implementation of the commitments emanating from Rio+20 through an inclusive, transparent and participatory process. They particularly note that “Some groups, particularly the poorest in the global South and those whose livelihoods depend  on access to natural resources, including local communities, subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples, are most severely affected by current global crises (e.g., climate shocks, price volatility of food and energy, desertification, loss of biodiversity) and their consequences. Often, these individuals know which solutions will work best for them. Only by listening to them and by accepting accountability and implementation responsibilities will we be able to make significant progress towards more sustainable modes of production and consumption.” The experts thus suggest the establishment of an international accountability mechanism similar to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, which subjects each country’s human rights record to a State-led peer review on the basis of information submitted by the country concerned, UN entities, civil society and other stakeholders. At the national level, governments should establish their own national accountability mechanisms, including independent monitoring and civil society participation, in order to evaluate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This double accountability mechanism would help to ensure that these goals are more enforceable than previous international ones, and to enable the full realization of human rights, including the right to development. According to them, the fulfillment of human rights is the litmus test for whether or not sustainable development is occurring. Read the UN news release … Read the OHCHR news release … Read the experts’ open letter …

UNUTK’s channel on YouTube
UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative, March 2012

As part of its mission to build greater understanding and facilitate awareness of traditional knowledge to inform action by indigenous peoples, local communities and domestic and international policy makers, the UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative has created a YouTube channel, including the TKI-produced videos on first person climate change stories from indigenous peoples, as well as videos on climate adaptation and mitigation. View the channel …

International Fund for Cultural Diversity: Third Call for Funding Requests
UNESCO release, 16 March 2012

UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity launched its third call for funding requests for programmes/projects and preparatory assistance requests. For the purpose of the Fund, eligible programmes and projects are activities that have been elaborated and are ready to be implemented pending funding approval, while preparatory assistance activities are those that enable programme/project elaboration. The Fund will support those programmes and projects that are designed to: facilitate the introduction of cultural policies that protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and, where appropriate, strengthen the corresponding institutional infrastructure; strengthen existing cultural industries; and foster the emergence of new cultural industries. In specific cases, the Fund will support such activities that aim to protect cultural expressions at risk of extinction, under threat or in need of urgent safeguarding, or that provide capacity-building opportunities. Government authorities and NGOs from developing countries that are Parties to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, as well as international NGOs are eligible to apply. All funding requests are to be sent to the relevant National Commissions for UNESCO or other official channels designated by the States Parties, by the deadline set at the national level, who will then submit them to the Secretariat of the Convention. The deadline for the Secretariat of the Convention to receive funding applications from National Commissions is 30 June 2012. Read the release, including links to further information … Visit the Fund’s website … Further information on how to apply …

UN Commission on the Status of Women, 56th session
27 February – 9 March 2012 (UN Headquarters, New York)

The Commission on the Status of Women adopted a resolution entitled “Indigenous Women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication.” In the resolution, the Commission urges States to: take particular measures to promote and strengthen policies and programmes for indigenous women with their full participation and respect for their cultural diversity; support the economic activities of indigenous women, in consultation with them and taking into account their traditional knowledge, so as to improve their situation and development, in particular by enhancing their equal access to productive resources and agricultural inputs; ensure the realization of the right of indigenous women and girls to education, and promote a multicultural approach to education that is responsive to the needs, aspirations and cultures of indigenous women; and respect, preserve and promote, where appropriate, the traditional knowledge of indigenous women with respect to medicine, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Read the resolution … Visit the meeting’s website …

Indigenous resource management systems: A holistic approach to nature and livelihoods
Maurizio Farhan-Ferrari
Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Blog, 14 March 2012

MORETON-IN-MARSH, UK: In this article, Maurizio Farhan-Ferrari argues that indigenous resource management systems are not only well poised to reduce deforestation rates but also to provide a rich array of experiences, expertise, and practices that can significantly contribute to protecting biodiversity, food security, and sustainable livelihoods in indigenous communities, as well as finding answers to climate change challenges. His conclusions are based on a project called “Forest Peoples, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods,” which provided insight on the sophistication of indigenous and local management systems. Read the article … Read the project case studies and synthesis paper …

Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain, 15 March 2012

CALIFORNIA, USA: The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care. Cambridge University anthropologist Françoise Barbira Freedman was the first westerner to live with the Keshwa Lamas indigenous tribe in Peru; they introduced her to the power of spilanthes extract, which is grown ornamentally around the world but native to the Amazon. Freedman has now founded pharmaceutical company Ampika Ltd., which is linked to Cambridge University’s commercial arm. A portion of proceeds from the company will also be shared among the Keshwa Lamas people, who Freedman still visits. Read the article …

Digital Defenders: Tribal People Use GPS to Protect Their Lands
Yale Environment 360, 15 March 2012

CONNECTICUT, USA: In this article, Fred Pearce describes how indigenous people all over the world are surveying their territories and producing maps using GPS devices, in order to protect their lands from logging and other outside development. Digital mapping technology has become the new weapon of choice for defending community lands against outsiders. The aim is to produce maps that governments cannot ignore and that will help inhabitants to claim legal ownership of their lands. Read the article …

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